USC football made a statement last year on National Signing Day. Coach Steve Sarkisian’s knocked his first big test at the helm of the program out of the park. Surprising analysts and fans everywhere, Sark pulled off a major coup landing the coveted trio of Damien Mama, Adoree’ Jackson and JuJu Smith. In addition to the heralded triumvirate, Sarkisian and company were also able to go into Florida and land a commitment from a physically imposing defensive back Lamont Simmons.
To finish with such a flourish was a testament to Sarkisian and his staff’s recruiting prowess. Landing one five-star recruit on signing day is huge, landing three is monumental.
In just one season, the impact of that day has reverberated throughout the Trojan program. Not only did Jackson and Smith emerge as two of the best freshmen in the nation, but landing those recruits also sent a national message: USC is back and a force to be reckoned with on and off the recruiting trail.
Instead of making headlines for losing commitments from heavily coveted prospects like Jalen Ramsey and Matthew Thomas, the Trojans were in the press for the right reasons, making a last minute entry into the national rankings. This offseason, Sarkisian and company look to have picked up right where they left off.
A few days ago, five-star linebacker Osa Masina verbally committed to USC. As one of the top previously uncommitted prospects in the country, Masina is a major pickup for a Trojan defense sorely in need of some playmaking ability within the linebacker corps.
While last year’s linebackers were instinctive and tough players, they lacked the raw athleticism and size of a premiere unit.
With the exception of possibly former inside linebacker Hayes Pullard, it would have been tough to foresee any of the linebackers getting meaningful playing time back when Brian Cushing, Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga suited up for the cardinal and gold.
Along with early enrollee Cameron Smith, Masina could be an instant impact player for the Trojans. At 6’4” and 233 pounds, Masina already has the size to compete on the collegiate level. Once he gets into the weight room and works with the strength coaches at USC, opposing running backs will dread coming to the Coliseum for the next few years.
With Masina committing, despite wide receiver Tristan Payton changing his commitment from USC to the Unviersity of Central Florida, the Trojans now have close to a full class for National Signing Day 2015. If they can fill up the remaining spots with some of their highly coveted targets, USC has a chance to ascend to the number-one spot in the rankings.
What Sark did last year on NSD will look like child’s play if he is able to close in on Long Beach Poly defensive back Iman Marshall, Serra linebacker John Houston, Jr., Serra defensive tackle Rasheem Green, and another linebacker, Porter Gustin.
The Trojans are in legitimate play for all four of these prospects, and if the last few weeks have been any indication, it looks like they might bring in their highest-ranked defensive recruiting class of all time.
Last year, the Trojans were able to restock a thin secondary through recruiting. Now it is one of the strengths of the team.
If they are able to land Houston and Gustin to go alongside Masina and Smith, the linebacking corp will be an immediate strength.
Already, Sarkisian and his staff have addressed needs on the offensive and defensive line, bringing in four guys on offense and three on defense with the possibility of Green solidifying both sides of the line.
While it remains to be seen if USC will capture their remaining targets, it is nice to be back atop the rankings and bringing in top-shelf talent to the football team. Of course, this doesn’t mean much if the players aren’t able to develop and succeed once they take the field for the Trojans. As Smith and Jackson showed last year though, some guys are just destined for greatness. If USC can continue to bring those types of special players in, the team as a whole will raise their level of play.
The jury may still be out among the Trojan faithful about Coach Sarkisian’s in-game strategy and decisions, but no one can question his recruiting prowess or eye for talent. Washington, his previous school, had three first team All-Americans last year. All three are highly rated professional prospects.
If Sarkisian was able to get that level of talent up to Seattle, it will be exciting to see what he can do in Los Angeles. Here’s hoping that the coaching staff’s second National Signing Day goes even better than their first one.
Jake Davidson is a sophomore majoring in accounting. His column, “Davidson’s Direction,” runs Mondays.